Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The SkyTools 4 Scheduler

Recently I needed to make a screen capture of the SkyTools 4 Scheduler tool, and thought I would share it with others as well.

Please keep in mind that this is my unfinished working version and that I didn't spend much time creating the example.

So what are we seeing? This is the SkyTools 4 Professional Edition in Imaging mode. When in imaging mode all tools are customized for imaging, from the planner, to the charts, to the Object Info. It is as if there are two separate versions of SkyTools, one for visual observing and one for imaging. In this way the tools can be specifically designed for visual observations or imaging, without attempting to do both simultaneously.

The Scheduler is used to generate a schedule for observations to be made on a given night. The result might be a schedule to be carried out manually, via Real Time, or it can be a formal plan to be used via a robotic telescope.

At the top of the dialog the iTelescope T21 imaging system has been selected. An Imaging System is more than just a telescope. At a minimum it consists of a telescope OTA + camera + mount.  But it also defines filters, acceptable exposure times, an optional fixed location, focal extenders/reducers, slew speeds, camera readout times, etc.

On the left are the imaging projects that have been created for this imaging system.  An Imaging Project defines how we want to observe each target. It is the heart of SkyTools 4 imaging.  I am not quite ready to show The Imaging Project dialog yet. An imaging project describes the filters to be used, what the exposure targets are for each filter, an observing priority, the positioning of the field of view, optional multiple fields of view to form a mosaic, binning, etc. The project is also used to track progress and to archive your observations.

The schedule is built on the right. It can be built automatically or one target at a time. Each observation includes a start time, filter, sub exposure time, and number of sub exposures. The schedule presented in the example is incomplete. Projects would normally be observed for longer periods of time, and normally there would be more of them to choose from, filling the time allowed.

Under the NightBar are two visual aids. The one directly below the NightBar indicates the quality of the imaging opportunity for the selected imaging project, in this case a project called P9 D. Green is the prime time to image it.  Below this is a visual depiction of the schedule. Green indicates observations, red indicates telescope slews. The spaces in between are where additional imaging projects can be scheduled.

The imaging system in this example is a remote robotic telescope that uses ACP planner for control. When you click Create Plan an ACP plan is generated from the schedule. This plan is uploaded and the observations are made accordingly. Time on this telescope is expensive, so normally we would build a plan for part of the night rather than for all of it, and every minute would be used.